After I got my PS5, I decided to test out playing a 4K movie on it. Some of the Blu-rays I've bought in recent years were, in fact, 4K copies that included a Blu-ray with them. So I started with....
One of my all-time favourites for classic Disney animated movies and naturally, it holds up. The animation is gorgeous, the songs are infectious, and Robin Williams is constantly hilarious. Though Genie perhaps a little too joke-heavy at time to the detriment of pacing, but Disney at the time clearly saw how marketable his Genie would be and went all in on it. Plus, they had literal hours of footage with Williams ad-libbing lines, so they had to go somewhere.
Still, it's a classic and remains a classic for all the right reasons.
Since I also owned them on Blu-ray, I decided to continue on the Aladdin train with...
Aladdin: The Return of Jafar
I can't remember the last time I saw this, but I'm guessing it's been at least 15-20 years. And it's...okay. It's funny going straight from Aladdin to this straight-to-video spin-off because the budgets were clearly not equal. The animation is sloppier, less consistent, less refined, and less interesting compared to its bigger budget counterpart. It's clearly working on something more akin to a TV budget than a big theatrical release. On its own, it's not BAD.
This felt very Iago-centered, which makes sense since this puts him in with Aladdin's gang by the end, in time for the spin-off show. Gilbert Gottfried is always a treat and hilarious and gets not just one, but TWO musical numbers. One of which is surprisingly a banger ("I'm Looking Out For Me"). Gottfried himself...wasn't a great singer, but I think that kind of adds to the hilarity of it
Dan Castelleneta replacing Robin Williams is...noticeable. He doesn't handle Genie's frenetic energy the same way. And his delivery feels more like reading lines from the script than improvising like most of Williams' were. Again, not bad.
Aladdin & the King of Thieves
This felt almost like a thematic conclusion to the animated TV show. Aside from "Welcome to the 40 Thieves," most of the songs are...not great. Williams is back, though he feels more reigned in by comparison, and more like he's reading from the script. I could be wrong there, but that's just the energy it feels like. It's a solid story, though, with Aladdin reuniting with his father. And a good, imposing, if kind of bland villain. All solid stuff. Definitely a step up in budget for the animation, compared to Return of Jafar.
And finally, I decided to cap off this Aladdinthon with...
Yes, the live-action remake. I've avoided the live-action remakes because none of them looked appealing compared to their animated counterparts. The Lion King, especially, looked terrible where they tried to make the animals as photorealistic as possible, but losing all the emotiveness in the trade-off.
To say I went into this with low expectations is an understatement.
And yet...I came out of it surprised. I really dug it. Of the two, I will always prefer the original, but there was a lot to like about this. The costumes are extraordinary, for starters. There were times I was just in awe of what someone was wearing. I love the entire reimagining of Agrabah. I don't know if it is, but it felt more accurate to the area and period they were emulating.
I liked how they combined Aladdin's "One Jump" song with meeting Jasmine, merging two guard chases together. I liked how they leaned more into Aladdin being a thief, showing off his skills AND making it a key ingredient in seeing Jasmine again.
They make a lot of little tweaks to the original story that works really well. Making Jafar a former thief was a great addition, especially in implementing how he gets the lamp from Aladdin. In the balcony kiss scene after "Whole New World," Carpet doesn't push Aladdin completely into Jasmine, but just bumps him closer, which gives Aladdin the agency to "seal the deal." I also like that rather than just meeting Carpet, he "rescues" it. Little touches to the story like that really add to it. They're not so much "fixes" as "tweaking."
Jafar isn't as gleefully, moustache-twirling evil or over the top, which is a shame, but I do like they added to his motivations here with some political reasoning. And his inferiority complex ties in nicely with his defeat in the end. The way Aladdin tricks him in the end is slightly tweaked, but it works incredibly well within what they set up.
The actor that plays Aladdin is...okay. He's rigid at times and isn't as wide-eyed, boyishly playful as his animated counterpart, but he has his own charms. I found I liked him more as the movie went on.
The actress that plays Jasmine, though, is phenomenal and owns every single damn scene she's in. She has more agency beyond a glorified damsel in distress and it works really well. Her musical numbers are great, though they feel a little out of place with the rest of the songs.
Will Smith is...different. He's no Robin Williams and can't hit that same manic energy, which is obvious when they TRY to give him lines that were originally way more energetic in Williams' hands. But he still has amazing charm and screen presence. I like the tweak that he's kind of Aladdin's personal vizier. The love story he gets with another character is cute, but doesn't really add much to the overall story.
So yeah, TL;DR, this movie surprised me and won me over. It's not the original animated movie, but it does a lot of things, especially little tweaks, that I really liked. There were a few times I'd watch one of those tweaks and say out loud "Ooh, that's good!"